Worlds Apart: Part Three
The first breath of fresh air had never smelt as sweet or as inviting.
Escaping from the lowly dungeons of Meridell into the crisp dark morning was like waking up after sleeping for years. Everything was new and fresh. The grass was damp and soft under their feet after walking over the cold, hard, stone floor of the cell. The wind whispered through the trees like a song, and the whole world seemed to shine.
Well, figuratively speaking.
But there was no time to stop and admire the scenery with the guards hot on their tails; the trio tightened their grip on each other and ran as far away from Meridell Castle as their legs would take them.
“Brightvale’s nice,” Vin commented offhandedly, peering out from under his black hood and surveying their surroundings.
After their escape, the trio ended up in the neighbouring land of Brightvale. They knew the guards were still after them, and they had to leave as soon as they could, but they were thoroughly exhausted and were trying to recover before the next big stint.
“Looks too much like Meridell for my liking,” Carrick said darkly, glaring from under the big floppy hat he was wearing. He was grumpy because it was the only hat that could fit on his head because of his big spikes, and it happened to have pink flowers on it.
He was disgusted.
“We’re leaving at dark tonight. It’s not safe to be trying to leave during the day,” Jaden said, adjusting the dark red, hooded cape she was wearing. They found a little market on the way into Brightvale and had stopped to ‘borrow’ a few things. Fully intending to give them back, of course.
“Easy for you to say. You don’t have the entire Garden Supplies shop on your head! I look like a garden.”
Jaden rolled her eyes at the Darigan Scorchio and turned back to peeling the skin off her Echtooh Melon.
They were set up under the little bridge, much too close for Carrick’s liking to the sign saying ‘Meridell’ with a big pointing arrow, but any further into Brightvale they risked running into King Hagen, who by now would surely know all about them. They had to be careful to stay out of the eyesight of passers by.
“You two try and get some sleep. I’ll take first watch.” Vin stood up and stretched. A light drizzle had just started to cascade down upon them, dripping down from the sides of the bridge.
After the burning sun had slowly set, and its golden shadow had faded into night, the three bandits under the bridge packed up their things and started to move out.
Light on their feet, Jaden and Vin crept silently, while Carrick galumphed loudly beside them, humming under his breath. Jaden was getting more and more irritable as they left Brightvale, her hands balling into tight fists as they walked.
“Could you stomp a little quieter, please?” she hissed through clenched teeth.
“Could you get off my back for a little while, please?” he replied with a growl, gnashing his teeth at her.
“Up over there, we can cross through that. We should aim for the Haunted Woods, or Moltara. Somewhere secluded,” Vin said, ignoring their squabbling and pointing up ahead of them where there was a barely visible clearing through the woods.
“They’ll follow us all over the worlds. We need to lose them,” Jaden said darkly, casting a calculating look around them. “We should go into the heart of the Haunted Woods or somewhere similar.”
“Uh, no, we probably shouldn’t,” Carrick said, looking sheepish. “I’ve been banned from there.”
“What did you do??” Jaden asked, exasperated.
“Set Edna’s Tower on fire...”
“How is that even possible?? It’s all stone!”
“Dunno. It was an accident. But I haven’t been back there since.”
“How did we end up with you?” Vin asked with a groan, but his eyes sparkled with affection.
The big Scorchio shrugged nonchalantly and the trio continued on.
“We can’t stay here too long,” Vin warned his two friends, as they surveyed their surroundings. Faerieland was laid out before them, purple and mauve, clouds and glitter. It was much too open for their liking; from higher ground one could see the whole of the lower lands.
They stood discussing their strategy under a big, sagging tree, the branches twisted around them, offering a certain amount of cover.
“From here we can access the Lost Desert, and then over the hills, Altador. From there we can make it to Moltara. I reckon that’s just about the best place we can settle. Right? There are loads of dark caves and such, we could easily live there,” Vin said, peering out from under the tree to make sure no one was around.
“What about the guards? They’ll follow us anywhere, you know they will!” Jaden said, groaning at the thought. A brief thought of Orell passed through her mind and she was suddenly struck by a feeling of deep sadness for the old guard.
“We’re passing through a few places before we get to Moltara. We should be able to lose them,” Vin said thoughtfully, his mind whirring with thoughts of worlds and guards and the Space Station. “If we plant a few false trails, maybe we can set them off in the opposite direction. We should get moving.”
They had been picking their way through Faerieland in silence, keeping in the shadows of the trees and avoiding the general population, when Carrick spoke up.
“What did you do, Vin? You both know what I did to get thrown in the dungeons. What did you do?”
Vin looked for a minute as though he wasn’t going to answer, but when he finally did he spoke in a quiet, cold voice.
“I used to live on the Space Station. My family and I. We had this nice little place. Oh, it was such a lovely place. You should have seen it. Totally new-age. The walls were silver and the carpet was this soft, fluffy orange stuff. The roof was electronic; you could change the ceiling to be sunny blue skies or a sparkling starry night. I used to change it so often my parents would tell me off! Oh, how I loved that house.” Vin looked up at the sky as he walked, perhaps seeing the electronic roof in his mind.
“What happened?” Carrick almost didn’t want to ask.
“It was the Space Station, what do you think happened? Dr. Sloth needed the space to build his new lab. So he destroyed our house, and all our friend’s houses. Totally bulldozed them to the ground. There was nothing left. I was so angry. My family were all okay and we were just going to move to Kreludor or somewhere. But I couldn’t let it go. I tried but I just couldn’t. So I wrote up a virus on my computer and set it to hit every piece of technology Dr Sloth owned.” Vin paused, his eyes watering.
Jaden, who knew the story, put a comforting arm around her friend as he continued.
“But I got it wrong. It hit every piece of technology on the entire Space Station. It was an accident! I only wanted to teach Sloth a lesson!” he wailed, suddenly childlike. “Instead I destroyed the one place I could call home. I was exiled, and never saw my family again. The Grundos were worried if I ever got near technology again I’d blow up the world or something, so they sent me to the place they thought would never have anything more advanced than a potato peeler.”
“Meridell,” Carrick finished for him, his face expressionless as he listened to his new friend’s story.
“Where I met the lovely Jae, and then you know the rest.” Vin stood up a little straighter and rubbed his eyes. “Come on. There’s a bunch of faeries over there, and I don’t like how they’re looking at us.”
The trio quickened their pace and hurried along the winding path, weaving in and out of the cover of the trees. They crossed through where the Healing Springs met Jhudora’s Bluff and then around the back where the trees became twisted and gnarled.
The sun was just starting to rise over the land as the three renegades continued on their quest for freedom. They walked in comfortable silence, enjoying the feel of the wind in their faces and the harsh ground beneath their feet. They kept a close eye on everything that went on around them, always looking over their shoulders at who might be behind them.
They reached the border of the great and vast Lost Desert while the sun was high in the sky and blazing down upon them, scorching the sand on which they stood.
“The Lost Desert,” Vin said, his eyes watering in the sweltering heat. He swatted a stray Mozito as it attempted to bite his neck. “Isn’t it magnificent?”
“It will be,” Carrick said, grinning and flashing his sharp white teeth.
To be continued...